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Buffalo Bills training camp preview: Will the QB room keep three in 2020?

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With COVID-19, they had better.

The Buffalo Bills entered the 2019 season in a place they haven’t been at quarterback in quite some time: They were, essentially, settled on “the guy” as the future at the position. True, there was plenty that guy needed to prove to show he deserved the title, but for all intents and purposes, the Bills had finally found their man at quarterback.

As we enter the 2020 season, there are still some questions surrounding the long-term potential of their talented, inconsistent signal caller, but much of the fears about a “worst-case” scenario in the all-important second year of his development are in the past. Now, all the Bills and their fans have to do is watch the development continue.

Here’s our look at the quarterbacks as we continue examining the state of the Bills’ roster.

Josh Allen

Contract status for 2020: Signed; third year of rookie contract ($5,777,191 cap hit; $12,517,249 dead-cap charge if cut)
Age: Turned 24 on 5/21/2020
2019 Playing time: 16 games (16 starts), 988 offensive snaps (92.4%)
Key 2019 statistics: 271/461 (58.8% completion rate), 3,089 yards, 20 TD, 9 INT, 85.3 QB rating, 45.8 QBR, 38 sacks, 4 fourth-quarter comebacks, 5 game-winning drives, 109 rushes, 510 yards, 9 TD, 14 fumbles

Through his first 16 career games, Allen’s statistics were, to put it mildly, rough. He completed 55% of his passes and threw 13 touchdowns against 18 interceptions through that 16th game, which was a loss at the hands of the New England Patriots this past September. Since that point, however, it seems that the proverbial switch has gone on, as Allen improved dramatically in nearly every measurable way in 2019. From Buffalo’s fifth game, a 14-7 victory over the Tennessee Titans, to its season finale, Allen completed 58.2% of his passes while throwing 17 touchdowns against only three interceptions. The young man showed better decision making in the second half of the year while continuing to make big plays late in games. Allen has emerged as one of the league’s best quarterbacks in crunch time, as he performed exceptionally well during the fourth quarter in 2019. He threw eight touchdowns without an interception this year in the fourth quarter. Watching Allen often feels like a roller coaster, as he can look exceptional on one play and then follow it up with a boneheaded decision or easy missed throw on the next. However, he has shown enough in the early part of his career that fans should be excited for what’s to come. As the Bills continue to add weapons on offense, Allen should only continue his emergence as one of the league’s brightest young stars.

Matt Barkley

Contract status for 2020: Signed; final year of two-year contract ($2.025 million cap hit; $200,000 dead-cap charge if cut)
Age: 29 (30 on 9/8/2020)
2019 Playing time: 2 games (0 starts), 78 offensive snaps (7.3%)
Key 2019 statistics: 27/51 (52.9% completion rate), 359 yards, 0 TD, 3 INT, 51 QB rating, 9.2 QBR, 2 sacks, 2 rushes, -4 yards, 3 fumbles

In 2018, Barkley was able to parlay a huge game against the New York Jets into a two-year contract as Josh Allen’s backup quarterback. In 2019, Barkley showed why he was available for the Bills to sign midway through the 2018 season. In his two spot duties last season, Barkley showed glimpses of positive attributes, especially during his near-comeback against the New England Patriots in September. However, the veteran is what he is—a passer with limited arm strength who relies on timing routes and quick-release throws, and if those are disrupted, then he really struggles to do much against NFL defenses. He is under contract for 2020, and he will probably be back as Allen’s backup.

Davis Webb

Contract status for 2020: Signed reserve/future deal on 1/7/2020
Age: 25 (26 on 1/22/2021)
Playing time: N/A
Key statistics: N/A

After being selected by the New York Giants in the third round of 2017 NFL Draft, Webb has bounced around the New York-New Jersey area as a professional. He was with the Giants until September 2018, when he was released and subsequently signed to the New York Jets’ practice squad. He remained with the Jets until September 2019, when he was released and subsequently signed to the Bills’ practice squad. He has yet to appear in a regular-season NFL game, but in the preseason, he has appeared in 12 games, completing 75-of-132 passes (57%) for 726 yards, 1 touchdown, and 4 interceptions, adding 11 rushes for 15 yards. Assuming that he remains on Buffalo’s roster for 2020, it will be the first time in his professional career that Webb has remained with the same coaching staff in consecutive seasons, so it’s possible that there is still some untapped potential here long term. Worst case, Buffalo would want to keep him around during the COVID-19 season on the practice squad.

Jake Fromm

Contract status for 2020: Signed a four-year rookie deal this offseason ($685,740 cap hit in 2020; $899,760 dead-cap charge if cut)
Age: 21 (22 on 7/30/2020)
2019 Playing time: 14 games at the University of Georgia
Key 2019 statistics: 2,860 passing yards, 60.8 completion percentage, 24 touchdowns (fourth in SEC)

Fromm had a highly publicized offseason where old racist and elitist messages surfaced. Buffalo didn’t release him at the time and instead gave him a chance to talk with teammates and begin earning back some trust. He’s going to have to work pretty hard to do that now that they return in person. Fromm has sub-par arm strength and it caused him to drop in the draft, but with the uncertainty surrounding the league due to the coronavirus, Buffalo would be wise to keep four QBs in the system. It’s likely he sticks as the third QB.


Positional Outlook

For better or for worse, the Bills are all-in with Allen. Sure, there are still warts, but we prefer to look at the positive steps Allen took in 2019—improving in every measurable category from his rookie season—as a sign that the future is bright. For much of the year, the young man played his best when he was under the most pressure. He has his first playoff start under his belt. He has his offensive coordinator for the third straight year to begin his career. He has his quarterback coach returning for year two. They traded for a legitimate number-one receiver and have surrounded him with every conceivable tool. This is Josh’s team, folks, and this team is going to go as far as he can take them.